Loss Control Insights

Managing Shop Rags

shop rags

When EMC Industrial Hygienist Steven Shaffer sees shop rags (or wipes) at a policyholder’s place of business, he is quick to advise them of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) solvent wipes management rule. “Although it was enacted on Jan. 31, 2014, many business owners are unaware of the ruling and how it may affect their operations,” notes Shaffer.

The ruling conditionally excludes solvent-contaminated wipes for hazardous waste regulations, provided that businesses clean or dispose of them properly. According to the EPA, the new rule reduces costs for thousands of businesses while maintaining protection of human health and the environment. To help you benefit from this rule and avoid an EPA penalty, we sat down with Shaffer to get some specific answers about the ruling.

What is a solvent-contaminated wipe?
Solvent-contaminated wipes contain a solvent that would be considered hazardous waste because it is listed in the hazardous waste regulations or because it could be ignitable.

How should solvent-contaminated wipes be managed under this rule?
All solvent-contaminated wipes must be kept in nonleaking, closed containers and labeled “Excluded Solvent-Contaminated Wipes.” In addition, the wipes must not accumulate for more than 180 days. Also, be sure to mark the accumulation start date on the container for verification. At the time of transport, wipes may not contain any free liquids as determined by a paint filter liquids test (EPA Test Method 9095B).

How can solvent-contaminated wipes be recycled or disposed of?
Reusable wipes must be sent to laundries or dry cleaners that are regulated under the Clean Water Act. Disposable wipes may be sent to landfills regulated under the Code of Federal Regulations. Disposable wipes may also be incinerated in licensed combustion units.

For more information about this EPA wipe regulation, Shaffer recommends the following online resources: